Am I Divorced?

The question is all too frequent. Am I still married? How can I find out if my spouse divorced me?

If you and your spouse have been separated for a long time, the simple answer is that there is no easy way to confirm whether your spouse ever divorced you. You can check easily enough, of course, in the court for the area where you live. But what about the area where your spouse lives? And if you have lost touch with your spouse, how can you know where he or she has lived?

Unfortunately, the solution is to err on the side of safety. If you’re not sure that you and your spouse are still married, and it’s important to you to be single (for example, if you want to remarry), you have no choice but to get a divorce, even if you learn later that it was redundant.

Getting a divorce when you can’t locate your spouse takes a little extra time, but shouldn’t be inordinately expensive. You will typically follow this sequence:

  • You will file for divorce and persuade the court that you cannot after reasonable diligence locate your spouse. The court will then permit you to serve your spouse by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where you live.
  • You will publish a notice in that newspaper (typically for four consecutive weeks), providing pertinent information that your spouse could use to respond to your divorce complaint if he or she read it — and of course, there’s a REALLY SLIM chance your spouse will read it.
  • After the notice runs for four consecutive weeks, you are deemed to have accomplished service of process on your spouse. Now you must wait ANOTHER 30 days. At the end of that 30 days, you will file an application for default on the basis of your spouse’s failure to respond.
  • The court will set a hearing. At that hearing, you will provide testimony that confirms the court’s jurisdiction as well as the grounds for divorce. Then the court will likely sign a Final Judgment of Divorce.
  • There are some things you can do and some things you cannot do when you obtain your divorce by publication. You can get custody of a child, for example, and you obtain custody of property. Typically, however, you cannot get an award of child support until you actually get personal service on your spouse. Most courts are also reluctant to transfer property of a spouse unless and until that spouse has been served personally.

    185 thoughts on “Am I Divorced?”

    1. Hello,
      I married in the state of California and filed for legal separation in the early ’80’s. I then filed for divorce right after. I was told by the courts my divorce would be final in six months. I fled the state of California to get away from my soon to be ex-husband as he was a dangerous man. I assumed after six months my divorce was final but I never received a divorce decree. I thought I didn’t receive them because I had fled without submitting a change of address for fear I would be found. Now I want to remarry (at 59) and sent for my divorce papers. I received information indicating the divorce may not have been finalized due to a missed court date? I was never told I had to attend another court date. I cannot believe this many years has gone by and nothing ever came up indicating I may still be married. Can I file to complete the original divorce or do I need to start over? Can I do this without the other party finding out where I now live?
      Thank you so much!

      1. In all likelihood, you’ll need to start over. When you do, you’ll need to show that you have done all you can to find your spouse. Talk to your lawyer about protecting your address from your spouse.

    2. My husband left me 8 yrs ago.a female came to my work one day and left a paperwork for me through my co-worker. It was divorce papers. Can that be considered as me getting served even if i didn’t see who droped off the divorce papers or even if the divorce papers were not handed directly to me? Living in california.

      1. I can’t speak for CA. In my state the process server must hand the documents directly to the person who is served, not to a co-worker or family member.

    3. My husband insist he got an annulment. He states we are no longer married. I have been very I’ll dx. with breast cancer in 2014. I simply need closure. He is in Virginia I am in New York. I deal with anxiety because he doesn’t tell the truth. My quality of life has been adversely affected. Thank you I need some peace.

      1. If he got an annulment, it would be filed in either VA or NY. You can check in NY, and if you have a buddy in VA, ask them to check there. If your husband has in fact NOT filed what he said he did, you certainly can file for divorce in VA if that’s what you want.

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